'X' gender driver's license issue complicating push for Indiana bias crime law

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, speaks to reporters earlier this year in his Statehouse office. On Thursday, Bosma said the recent availability of an "X" gender option on Bureau of Motor Vehicles credentials has complicated Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb's push for a comprehensive bias crime statute.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Holcomb administration's decision to make an "X" gender driver's license available to Hoosiers identifying as neither male nor female is complicating the Republican governor's quest to enact a comprehensive bias crime statute.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said Thursday that the House Republican caucus has been roiled over the new gender option on Bureau of Motor Vehicles credentials since it was first reported last week in The Times.

"Our caucus ranges across the spectrum on this issue," Bosma said. "I hadn't thought about it until last week, and now that's about all I've thought about.

"We spent the last week talking about resolving this issue, rather than where our caucus could be on the bias crimes issue."

Bosma believes the provision inserted Wednesday into Senate Bill 182, requiring a person submit a certified, amended birth certificate to complete a gender change at the BMV, instead of providing a state form with a doctor's gender change affirmation, is a "middle-ground that's comfortable to the vast majority of our caucus."

At the same time, Bosma repeatedly told reporters that the gender change issue "has complicated our discussion about bias crimes.

"It just injects an entirely different discussion in it," he said, without specifying how — despite numerous questions to that effect.

"Just take my word for it, it complicated discussions, and switched our discussions to a very emotional topic of whether somebody should be able to change their gender identity or not, which I understand it, not everyone does," Bosma said.

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Senate Bill 12, which is awaiting action by the House, would permit judges to consider bias as a general aggravating factor when deciding whether to sentence a convicted criminal to more than the advisory prison term at the Department of Correction.

Gov. Eric Holcomb has said the Senate-approved proposal is inadequate to get Indiana off the list of five states lacking a bias crime law, because it provides no specific protections for individuals and groups traditionally targeted in hate crimes.

The governor has called on the Republican-controlled General Assembly to enact a law that defines a bias crime as motivated by the victim's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

"My apologies if it (the 'X' gender option) caused any complication," Holcomb said. "But this should not in any way derail any of our discussions."

But Bosma said not only has the gender issue sidetracked the Republican caucus, "it also changed some people's minds about where they stood on the bias crimes issue.

"I hope that we will have a statute that will remove Indiana from the list of those who don't address the issue, and I think we have a formula for it; you'll just have to wait and see. We'll all find out at the same time."

The governor once again urged Hoosiers Thursday to contact their state representative and senator to emphasize the importance of including a comprehensive list of protected classes, just as Holcomb said he was doing last week while promoting Indiana in Europe.

"I was doing double-duty speaking to people back here. And I will continue to do that. I'll continue to do anything that is helpful to make progress on this front," Holcomb said. "We can get this done, and I suspect we will."

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